Women’s soccer: Bulldogs look to surprise in new conference

BY KYLE BEERY | ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

Big East coaches have pegged the Butler women’s soccer team to finish seventh in the new conference.

Compared to a fourth-place finish last year in its lone season in the Atlantic 10 Conference, that may seem like a downgrade, but co-head coach Rob Alman said the increased competition is something the team eagerly anticipates.

Alman said the Bulldogs expect to surprise many in their first year in the Big East.

“The nice thing is we had a sort of trial run of it, going from the Horizon League to the A-10,” Alman said. “Having that jump on unfamiliar competition will be extra work, but we have that experience.”

The Bulldogs finished with a 12-5-4 record last season, the fewest losses the team has ever had in a single season. This year’s roster returns 19 players from that team, including six seniors.

Seven sophomores are also on the team, including preseason All-Big East midfielder Sophie Maccagnone.

Maccagnone was the A-10 Rookie of the Year in 2012, ranking fifth in both goals and assists with 11 and 24, respectively.

Maccagnone said as the competition increases, she expects the Bulldogs to be up to the challenge.

“Switching conferences is exciting because we’ll see better competition,” Maccagnone said. “We just have to step up the whole year.”

Maccagnone said her role has expanded in her second season to feature her on the offensive attack.

“My role specifically is to work the hardest in the middle,” Maccagnone said. “And we’re trying out moving me up and pushing with the forwards.”

Alman said Maccagnone battled a hip injury over the summer, but she has still managed to have an impact this year with three goals and four assists.

“She’s such a tough kid and so competitive. She’s trying to play herself back into fitness,” Alman said.

The Big East had two teams in the NCAA tournament last season with Georgetown advancing to the second round and Marquette to the Round of 16. Coaches picked Marquette to defend its Big East title in 2013 and Georgetown to finish second.

Junior Kelly Mahoney, named an A-10 second-team defender last year, is the only other returning Bulldog with A-10 postseason honors.

Butler has a 4-1 record after beating Bowling Green and Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne over the weekend. The Bulldogs will begin a three-game home stand with Seattle on Friday, followed by Eastern Michigan on Sunday and No. 11 Michigan on Sept. 15.

The Bulldogs’ first Big East game  will be at Villanova—predicted to finish third in the preseason poll— on Sept. 26.

The first home league game is against Georgetown Oct. 3.

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